My MRes project is focused on the variation in body-size spectra of reef fish assemblages among distinct coral habitats, before and after a mass coral bleaching event. At present, it is not certain how habitat structural complexity and habitat composition will determine the body-size structures of functional reef fish groups, or how these communities will respond to altered habitats from large-scale prolonged heat stress, therefore, this is what I aim to investigate. The study will be using a pre-existing empirical dataset on a mass bleaching event that took place in April 2016 at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef. Surveys were conducted 7 months before (September 2015) and 6 months after (October 2016) the disturbance, at 16 distinct coral habitat sites (classified by dominant coral species). Here underwater transect surveys were conducted to record habitat composition, structural complexity, and reef fish body sizes. Using this dataset, I aim to produce the first study investigating (1) how the structural complexity of distinct coral habitats at different spatial scales shape herbivore and predator body-size assemblages and (2) compare how the body-size assemblages of these individual functional fish groups after influenced by an acute disturbance event.
My MRes had been selected to be presented as a poster at the RCUK 2021 conference.
Prior to starting my academic journey, I worked in the dive industry (qualified PADI instructor) and was fortunate to explore marine ecosystems from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to the Socorro Islands in Mexico. These opportunities gave me a personal insight into the current threats our oceans are facing like thermal-induced coral bleaching, plastic pollution, and marine mammal entanglement. Witnessing these in person ignited my passion to pursue a career as a marine ecologist – researching climatic and anthropogenic impacts on marine ecosystems, with a particular on coral reef systems, and finding solutions to help conserve their functional future.
My academic journey first began at Bangor University, where I completed my studies in BSc Marine Biology and was awarded an Entrance Scholarship. For my dissertation, supervised by Dr. Gareth Williams, I explored the influence of direct human impacts on the spatial depth patterns of Pacific coral reef benthic communities, using a NOAA dataset on 4 archipelagos situated in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. Alongside my undergrad, I was privileged to gain valuable experience working as a research assistant at the School of Ocean Sciences on numerous research projects – topics included the thermal tolerance of invasive species, the impact of light pollution on the marine environment, and heatwave impacts on intertidal rocky shore communities. Additionally, I was successful in securing a $4,500 scholarship to attend the Coral Reef Ecology course at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, travel grants from the Marine Biological Association, a research position on a two-week research cruise in Iceland collecting data on seabird ecology, and the opportunity to conduct research on microplastic onboard Bark Europa sailing from Peru to Tahiti. I graduated from Bangor, with a First-class Honours and was awarded the Gavin Borthwick prize being the “Best Marine Biology student”.
In October 2021, I began my MRes in Marine Biology supervised by Dr. Laura Richardson, Dr. James Robinson, and Dr. Gareth Williams, fully funded by Athena Swan. My thesis project is investigating variation in body size distributions of reef fish community assemblages, before and after a mass coral bleaching event on Lizard Island. Alongside my studies, I work for the Marine Diaries (an ocean science communication platform), am an Ambassador for Women in Ocean Science (and have been an ambassador since the first year of my undergrad), am a student representative on the British Ecological Climate Change specialist interest group, on the School of Ocean Science's Ocean Colours Committee, and a postgraduate course representative at the School of Ocean Sciences.